Chelsea brushed Tottenham Hotspur aside at Stamford Bridge in the first leg the Carabao Cup semi-final, although the two goals were all of Tottenham’s own making with poor decisions gifting Chelsea the advantage ahead of the second leg on Wednesday, January 12. Antonio Conte had a number of injury issues and had to play some who he may well be looking to move on in the January transfer window, namely Matt Doherty whom he started at left wing back, Japhet Tanganga, Giovani Lo Celso although Conte strangely started Pierluigi Gollini in goal ahead of Hugo Lloris.
Chelsea had too much quality over two legs but the second half did at least see Tottenham show fight and give some encouragement for the remainder of the season.
Tottenham Show Fight But Errors Prove Costly
Woeful Defending Once Again Costs Tottenham
The one thing that Conte would have wanted his players to do would have been to be focused at the back and not make the same mistakes that they did in the first tie but once again, his players looked nervous and in the first 20 minutes both Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies were culpable of poor defensive play but were spared their blushes. In the 18th minute, the decision to start with Gollini in goal came under further scrutiny as he came and failed to get anywhere near a Chelsea corner kick leaving Antonio Rudiger to head home into the empty net. It was another example of lack of understanding and coherency in this Spurs side.
A Glimmer of Hope
It took until the 31st minute for Tottenham to muster a shot on target but Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg’s effort was deflected wide for a corner. When the corner came in it fell to Kane at the back post but the ball was just out of his reach. It gave the Spurs fans cause to raise the volume levels and administer some hope that all was not yet lost in this tie, although in reality, when Spurs did get forward there was little quality in the final third.
Spurs thought that they had been given a chance to get a foothold back in the tie when Hojbjerg was adjudged by match official Andre Marriner to have been fouled in the box by Rudiger and pointed to the spot. VAR intervened and correctly advised that the foul was outside the box but the resulting free-kick was then hit tamely by Lo Celso and the hope began to ebb away once more with Chelsea 3-0 ahead at the break.
VAR Pain But Tottenham Show Fight
Tottenham had another shout for a penalty in the 55th minute but VAR was again correct in overturning the decision with VAR official Mike Dean advising Marriner to check the pitch side monitor and it showed that Kepa Arizabalaga cleanly got the ball before Lucas Moura. Kane then thought he had given Spurs hope but his goal was ruled to be offside. Again, the much maligned VAR was right in its decision to overturn the goal but for Spurs it just added to the sense of frustration. It was however part of the best moments Spurs provided over the two legs and at least will give some optimism ahead of the North London Derby on Sunday, January 16 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
January is always a difficult month for bringing in new players but Conte has a huge task ahead of him and will need at least two incomings to try and get Spurs over the line and secure a European place for next season. This semi-final raised the issue of Tottenham’s strength in depth again and there was no comparison between the two squads either on the pitch or on the bench.
If Conte is able to get Spurs into the top-ffour it will be an incredible achievement but with games in hand it is still achievable but the Italian will need his players to give him everything through until the seasons’ end in May. After that it will be a busy summer and Conte will need to rebuild, refresh and reignite Tottenham as a top-four club.